Tayari Jones’ novel Silver Sparrow tells itself in memory and present, retrospect and retelling. The prose simply happens. It slips underneath and into you. Moves you from inside. Poised in history but set in the intimacy of individuals, Jones calls forward icons and minutiae with equal reverie. Her details are invocations, passages through which characters become people. Porn star or civil rights leader, Easter dress or rainbow tube top, peach schnapps or Alabama canning season, Jones invites us to touch her world and associate with freedom.
Separated though immovably intersected through blood and bigamy and the mantras of mothers, the two-part novel projects the refracted stories of sisters onto the wall which divides them. The book moans exquisitely in moments of tenderness as a family comes to define itself in crossroads and commitments. It is the story of the stories people tell themselves, of extension and envy, a series of choices and the losses that follow. Jones doesn’t allow simplification. The antagonists become sentimental heroes. The villain, finally turned good, only becomes an enemy to someone else.
For everyone there is an urge to belong and the various motions toward ideas of self and home. Silver Sparrow is an examination of greatness and duty. Jones embraces complexity as each character makes attempts at want and virtue. At once in conflict and symbiosis, the book is fair to reward and repercussion. Unusually sensitive and ultimately forgiving, Silver Sparrow casts light on being made.
Tags: book review, Dana Jaye Cadman, fiction, novel, review